What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

Jul 28, 2022

Feeling overwhelmed at work can be caused by a wide range of both external and internal factors. Sometimes there’s an easily identifiable reason you’re overwhelmed, but often there are several culprits working together to make you feel like you can barely cope.

Let’s take a look at some of the common causes of work stress and what you can do to alleviate the pressure!

Unrealistic Expectations at Work

If your boss, manager or supervisor is expecting more of you than you can realistically accomplish, you will quickly feel overwhelmed. Sometimes bosses intentionally ask a lot of you because they think it will motivate you to get more done. But sometimes they’re simply unaware of how long tasks should take, or how much other work you already have on your plate.

How To Respond to Unrealistic Expectations

The first step in responding to unrealistic expectations is to tell the truth about how you feel. You know you’re feeling overwhelmed, but does your boss know?

Having a quick non-confrontational chat with your supervisor about how you’re feeling is sometimes all it takes to improve the situation.

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When you have the conversation, let them know up front that you’re not there to complain or vent all your frustrations. Instead, make it clear you want to find a solution that works for everyone.

Approaching conversations like this with a collaborative mindset establishes a level of trust, and the potential for reaching a mutually beneficial solution increases exponentially!

Also, keep in mind that many bosses will actually be relieved and appreciate that you’re having a conversation with them instead of talking behind their back.

Feeling Overwhelmed by a Coworker

If there’s one thing that can really make you feel overwhelmed at work, it’s conflict with a coworker. This is especially true if the conflict is ongoing and doesn’t feel resolvable.

Conflict usually stems from miscommunication, and all of us have a propensity to believe the issue lies with the other person, not ourselves!

Most people think communication is easy, like eating or sleeping. You just talk a lot, and the outcome is predictable. But nothing could be further from the truth! Communication is a tricky thing, and it’s painfully common for human beings to misinterpret one another’s’ words and take offense.

In fact, getting offended by something someone else said is the number one reason for coworker conflict.

Why does this kind of conflict happen so easily? One easy way to understand it is to see ‘speaking’ as a way of sending out signals, and ‘listening’ as a way of interpreting those signals.

The uncomfortable reality is that we’re not always sending out the signals we think we’re sending out. And even if we are, the other person is not necessarily interpreting our signals the way we want them to!

Why We Are Misunderstood

Psychologists agree that most people suffer from a phenomenon called ‘transparency illusion’, the belief that everything we say and do is communicated clearly by us. Therefore, no one should have any trouble knowing exactly what we mean at all times!

This belief in our own ‘transparency’ means that when we’re misunderstood, (someone else gets offended by something we said), we tend to assume that the misunderstanding is not our fault (we get offended at the other person being offended).

The inevitable result of all this ‘offendedness’ is the onset of resentful feelings, which lead to blaming the other person. This may also lead to saying other things which shouldn’t be said, and on and on.

It doesn’t take long before it seems like there’s no solution and you’re feeling completely overwhelmed!

How To Respond to Conflict With a Coworker

Be humble. Let the other person know you’re fully aware that you might be part of the problem. Even if your contribution to the problem was completely inadvertent, or maybe even non-existent, your willingness to take some ownership lets them know you’re not attacking them, and that it’s safe to let down their guard.

Tell the truth. Be honest about how you’re feeling while at the same time always reaffirming your willingness and desire to make things right.

Don’t give up. Be gently persistent in your attempts to heal/reconcile the relationship. It may take the other person a minute to trust that your intentions are genuine.

What Does the Bible Say About Feeling Overwhelmed?

The author of the book of Philippians says, ‘don’t be anxious about anything’.

At first, this might seem like a seriously unrealistic ideal. How is it possible to not be anxious when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by a situation at work?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says,’with man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’

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One of the things Jesus is pointing out here is that perspective really matters.

There’s the perspective of limitation and impossibility where you feel perpetually anxious and overwhelmed.

And then there’s the perspective of hope and possibility, where God is in the picture and anything could happen.

This is why James says, ‘count it pure joy when you encounter trials of many kinds….’ because baked into the trial, is possibility, is opportunity.

If you can recognize that feeling stressed and overwhelmed are emotional signals alerting you to an opportunity, the situations causing you stress will seem a lot less overwhelming.

What’s The Opportunity?

Growth. Growth in character, growth in relationship with God, and even the possibility of a stressful situation at work being turned around.

Research shows that relationships where there has been conflict and resolution are deeper and stronger than relationships where there has never been conflict.

Who knows, your stressful coworker may turn out to be your new best friend!

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